Monday, January 23, 2012

320 Main Employee Spotlight: Kristin Virgin

The multi-talented Kristin Virgin.
Kristin is a walking example of the renaissance man - errr, rather - woman. Just when you think you've got her all figured out, she releases another tid-bit of information about her life that blows you away. When she's not entertaining 320 Main guests with her classical good looks and quick wit, she's studying souffles and sauces at culinary school. When she's not captaining her 31 foot sport fishing boat she's dressing her cat up in costumes. When she's not traveling, she's curled up on her couch watching the latest drama on Downtown Abbey. In short, she's got "well-rounded" down to an art and would make the perfect cocktail party date. Meet 320 Main server, Kristin Virgin:

Q: How long have you worked at 320 Main?
Kristin: I will have been at 320 Main for six years in May. I was hired to open 320 by the original owners. There are only two of us left from the opening of the restaurant. 

Q: Are you from Seal Beach? 
Kristin: I’m from Garden Grove but now I live 3.3 miles from 320 in Belmont Shore. I joke that I live in LA County and commute all the way to Orange County. I spend so much time in Seal Beach it feels like I live there. I just don't sleep there. 

Q: Two words that best describe you? 
Kristin: Silly and interested. 

Q: Favorite dish on the menu? 
Kristin: I really love so many of them that it is hard to say! I guess right now i like the Duo of Lamb. The whole dish melts in your mouth. 

Q: What's your poison? (A.K.A. Favorite cocktail at 320)
Before the Schiffer's took over I would never order a gin or bourbon based drink and my concept of a "craft cocktail" was a mojito. Things are MUCH different now. I don't have a favorite cocktail, and I don't think any of us could, because we are constantly trying new things the guys are coming up with. I do get fixated on a particular Spirit from time to time and want to try all the classical - and then all the new school - cocktails made with it. Right now I am on a big Laird’s Applejack kick. 

Q: Best thing about 320 Main? 
Kristin: The best thing about 320 is our people (regulars). They take such good care of us and I love serving them. I see my regulars more than I see my family most of the time and so to me they become family. I’ve gone to my regulars vow renewals, bbqs, poker games and New Year's Eve parties. I even went to Washington D.C. with one! 

Q: Secret to surviving a busy Friday night on the floor?
Kristin: Knowing I’ve survived them before, having a game plan, and Becca at the hostess stand. And occaisionally a large latte with an extra shot of espresso if I know it’s going to be a busy night!

Q: You're going to culinary school now, correct?
Kristin: I’m in the culinary program at OCC which is accredited by the culinary federation of America. It is such an amazing program and I learn so much everyday! 

Q: What made you want to study food? 
Kristin: My husband and I would like to own a restaurant in the future and I feel like you should know everything you can about your business. I want to be able to put myself in the Chef’s shoes and speak to them in their language and help out if I’m needed. 

Q: What's your personal signature dish? 
Kristin: I make a mean white trash bread pudding!

Q: As a person who knows food and has studied it, what sets 320 Main's menu apart from the rest?
Kristin: I like that our menu has a little something for everyone. It’s approachable but with surprises like Duck, Sunchokes and Buffalo.

Q: Besides working at 320 what are your hobbies
Kristin: My husband and I own a 31 foot sport fishing boat and I’m hoping to utilize it more by going to Catalina and deep sea fishing this summer. I was thinking of learning to scuba dive but I don’t like being cold so I might hold off on that for a while.

Q: Any pets? 
Kristin: I have a cat named Juliet, she is about 13 years old. I’m her third mommy so I could be off by a year or two. I like to dress her up in costumes…She must have about 15 or so. She only stays in them for a minute or two but it makes me laugh. 

Other things about Kristin:

  • I did a semester abroad in Florence, Italy and then went back and lived in Rome for a while 
  • I’m an only child 
  • My mom is an acupuncturist 
  • I name all my cars and if your car doesn’t have a name I’ll name it for you 
  • I recently joined the Lions Club of Seal Beach 
  • I graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a Business Degree 
  • I’ve been to Hong Kong 
  • I’ve been married for five years 
  • I’ve been working in the food service industry for 13 years 
  • I love Downton Abby

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Home Bar Basics (And Not-So-Basics)

"Sazerac" ©Dave Stolte
Jason and Rebecca Schiffer are dedicated to quality cocktails, but not just at the 320 Main bar. They believe quality cocktails should be a reality for everyone, even if they are making them at home. Dave Stolte shares this belief, which is why he wrote Home Bar Basics (And Not-So-Basics), a 112 page pocket sized guide to the art of the cocktail. Stolte covers it all in this little gem of a book - from basic bar setup, to the history behind it all, to recipes checklists, guides and execution. How did he gather all his knowledge? By 20 years of studying the craft of mixology, pilgriming from bar to bar across the country, collecting recipes and tricks of the trade, creating his own variations and hours of research through the history of it all. The result is a book that addresses everything you need to get started, even delving into the more complex cocktails and how to make your own ice. It also includes clever illustrations by Stolte himself (see above). Don't let its compact size fool you, it's concise yet thorough. 

“There’s nothing like this out there at the moment," says Stolte. "It seems there’s three kinds of cocktail books: huge encyclopedic cover-everything doorstops, intro-to-drinkmaking books full of bad advice and mediocre-at-best recipes, or niche specialty books that are well-written with great recipes, but don’t cover the foundations. Home Bar Basics (and Not-So-Basics) aims to fill that space on the bookshelf in an approachable way.”

"I wish this book was around when I was learning how to bartend,"says Jason Schiffer. Schiffer's not the only person backing Stolte's guide. Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe,, Eric Alperin (The Varnish, Milk & Honey, Little Branch), and Paul Harrington (Cocktail: the Drinks Bible for the 21st Century) also endorse it. With this handy guide you'll be slinging drinks better than Tom Cruise in "Cocktail" before you know it. Don't worry if you drop a bottle or two, the pages are water and tear-proof. We told you Stolte thought of it all.

To get your hands on a copy head over to or pick up a copy at 320 Main. It's only $12.99 and it's printed in the USA. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Bloody Mary

The 320 Main Bloody Mary - $12.
Brunch without Bloody Mary's is like a summer without sun - it's a necessary element that's good for what ails you; and it's the perfect way to kick start your morning (especially if you're still nursing your hangover from last night). The Bloody Mary has been a staple in the cocktail scene for decades. Just how many decades is still under debate.

The story most generally accepted among the cocktail community takes us back to Paris in the early 1920's to the famous Harry's New York Bar. Harry's was founded in 1911 by Harry MacElhone upon the advice of his friend who encouraged him to dismantle his bar in New York and relocate it to Paris, France. Years later, while prohibition was in full swing in America, a french bartender named Fernand "Pete" Petiot was tending at the famed Paris bar where he concocted the rudimentary version of The Bloody Mary. Legendary authors such as Hemingway and Sartre frequented the bar to partake in this and other famously unique cocktails. 
Harry's New York Bar, Paris

Years later, after Prohibition had been repealed, Petiot moved to Manhattan and began overseeing the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel. He brought his recipe for The Bloody Mary with him and it was here that he perfected the recipe as we know it today by adding horseradish, Tabasco sauce, lemon juice and celery pepper.

Queen Mary I of England
A livelier - yet less believable - version of the Bloody Mary's history by Weekly World News dates the origin of the drink to the mid 1550's during the reign of the merciless Queen Mary I in England. "The tomato juice represents the blood spilled, while the vodka, a 'firewater,' is symbolic of the queen's brutal means of executing the martyrs." 

The beauty - and sometimes downfall - of the Bloody Mary is the room the recipe gives for creativity. Upon the base ingredients of tomato juice and vodka one can add almost anything. This freedom can make for one hell of a drink, or one "what the hell is in this" drink. Jason Schiffer had never quite met a Bloody Mary that he could stomach. If it wasn't too much horseradish and pepper, it was an unholy union of spirit and tomato juice. But as a restauranteur and student of the cocktail craft, this challenged Jason to create a Bloody Mary that he could stand behind. Bold flavors from non-traditional ingredients and specific mixing techniques combine to make 320 Main's unique take on this cocktail.

Sriracha Sauce
The Bloody Mary requires a mixing technique called "throwing" that is most typically used for drinks containing vermouth - like the El Presidente. Heavily spiced drinks like the Bloody Mary also improve with this technique in which the drink is poured from one mixing tin to another in a long stream. The slamming of the concoction into the catching tin will release the esters in vermouth or the aromas in spices, opening up the drink. Other variations that Jason made on the original recipe of your standard tomato juice, vodka and Worcestershire sauce was the addition of Sriracha Rooster sauce instead of Tabasco, caper juice in place of a salted rim, and cumin. "The cumin gives our Bloody Mary a smokey flavor," explains Jason, "which is what makes it a little different from some of the others out there." 

One detail concerning the Bloody Mary that there is no argument about, is its appropriate time of consumption. In the wise and witty words of Wayne Curtis, "The Bloody Mary is not an evening drink—those who consume it after the sun has set possess personality defects and are to be avoided. It is, however, a known antidote to the common hangover, and those who drink it in the morning are to be regarded as people of great knowledge and unerring discernment."